FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cuba-US Relations: the View from the Other Side

by

shutterstock_238391197

On Dec. 17, 2014, President Barack Obama went on television to declare the United States was unilaterally ending America’s “outdated approach [to Cuba] that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests.”

So why do so many American politicians and commentators still persist in arguing the U.S. has been “giving and giving” in dealings with Cuba, and insisting the Cubans reciprocate by… well, changing their government to suit American demands?

Let’s start with simple truths. Cuban did not impose a stifling, 55-year economic embargo on the United States that has failed to advance anyone’s interests. Cuba did not put the United States on a list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba did not try to assassinate American presidents. Cuba did not attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.

During President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba this week, Americans need to at least consider the perspective from the Cuban side of the Florida Straits divide.

The U.S. embargo — the Cubans call it a blockade — is still the law of the American land. According to the United Nations, the embargo, which has been virtually universally condemned internationally, has cost the Cuban economy over $116 billion.

Ending the embargo is, not surprisingly, Cuba’s sine qua non for normalizing relations with the United States.

To be fair, President Obama has used his executive powers to mitigate some of the embargo’s impact, including, most recently, permitting the use of U.S. dollars in transactions involving Cuba. There is more he could do but, thanks to the Helms-Burton Act, the embargo’s deleterious effects will not finally disappear until Congress votes to scrap it.

In the meantime, even strategically renewing the 1917 Trading With the Enemy Act, as Obama did in September to give him wiggle room around the embargo, is not only insulting — you claim to want to normalize relations with a country you designate an “enemy”? — but that law continues to ban many aspects of trade with Cuba. In 2012, an American businessman was even charged with violating the act for investing in Cuban real estate.

Thanks to extra-territoriality provisions in 1992’s Torricelli act and 1996’s Helms-Burton Act, foreign companies trading with Cuba and many international banks have been slapped with multi-million-dollar fines for conducting otherwise ordinary financial transactions.

How far can extra-territoriality go? In December, a senior executive with the Canadian mining company Sherritt had to be Skyped into an Economist-sponsored New York conference on “new opportunities for American companies interested in doing business” in Cuba after the U.S. government refused to allow him into the country because his company does business with Cuba.

While the Cubans view the embargo as the most serious impediment to re-establishing normal relations with the U.S., there are others.

Guantánamo? Although the naval station no longer has any American strategic or military significance, the U.S. continues to occupy those 45 square miles of Cuban territory under a 113-year-old neo-colonial treaty from Theodore Roosevelt’s day. Cuba, which hasn’t cashed an annual American $4,085 “rent” check since 1960, wants its land returned. Washington says no.

Giving and giving?

Or consider the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, a Bush-era initiative still in place and offering speedy entry into the United States for any Cuban medic who defects. Its sole purpose is to undermine Cuba’s highly successful medical internationalism initiative, which has over 50,000 Cuban medical personnel in 60 countries, delivering care to poor people who otherwise wouldn’t have access.

And then there are the ongoing U.S. attempts to promote Cuban “regime change.” From overt and covert support for violent terrorist attacks against Cuba, to beaming propaganda radio and television signals into Cuba in violation of international law, to current State Department and USAID support for anti-government groups in the name of “robust democracy assistance.” You can understand why Cuba sees that as a threat.

Although Cuba scores well on cultural and social human rights — health care, education — it does have a poor record in providing individual citizens with civil and political rights.

If Washington is really serious about improving those, however, it could start by stopping meddling in Cuba’s internal affairs. How can Havana begin to liberalize its economy or political structure when the most powerful country in the world — 90 miles away — funds groups that seek its downfall?

Relations between the U.S. and Cuba have improved enormously since December 17, 2014. It is in the interests of both countries to continue this process apace. But first it is important for both countries to understand the position of the other, to walk in their shoes.

To date there has been little evidence Washington understands the Cuban concerns — and that is too bad.

John Kirk, a professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, is the author or co-editor of 16 books on Cuba, most recently Healthcare Without Borders: Understanding Cuban Medical Internationalism. Stephen Kimber, a professor of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Canada, is the author of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Women’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail